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Tuesday,15-June-2021

Maharashtra

Maharashtra CM Uddhav Thackeray trains guns on Bullet Train project

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Bullet-Train

Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray has said the state government will “review” the Rs 1.10 lakh crore Mumbai-Ahmedabad Bullet Train project, considered as Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s dream offering to the nation.

The Sunday move came barely a couple of days after he stopped work on another pet project of the former Bharatiya Janata Party government, the proposed car-shed for the Mumbai Metro 3 line in the Aarey Colony.

“We shall not work in a vindictive style. We will review the Bullet Train project, just as we have not stayed the Mumbai Metro Project,” Thackeray asserted.

The Bullet Train, coming up at a cost of around Rs 1.10 lakh-crore is being financed 81 percent on a 50-year soft loan of 0.1 per cent by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).

The Nationalist High Speed Rail Corporation (NHSRC) is the executing agency for the project in which Maharashtra and Gujarat will fund Rs 5,000 crore in equity with the centre’s share of Rs 10,000 crore.

Presently, the project is in the land acquisition stage, with opposition in parts of Palghar in the state, with the project slated to be completed by 2023.

Thackeray also said that the government will come out with a White Paper on the state’s economic status soon after it emerged that there is a debt burden of around Rs.Five lakh-crore.

“We have sought updates on all ongoing developmental works, costs, obstacles and the deadlines before we decide on what needs to be prioritized and whether those projects being implemented on priority are really needed,” Thackeray said.

The Chief Minister said that the state contributes 40-45 per cent of total tax revenues to the national exchequer.

“However, if we can get a waiver on this for a couple of years, Maharashtra’s entire debt burden could be wiped off. We expect the Centre’s help in these critical times,” Thackeray said.

Urging the state opposition parties not to play political games, he said he would meet the PM and expressed hope that even Leader of Opposition Devendra Fadnavis would use his good offices in the matter for the state.

He reiterated that his government’s priorities are different from the previous regime and it was all for development without damaging the environment.

Crime

Marathi actor nabbed for ‘vile posts’ against Maharashtra minister

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Eknath-Shinde

A small-time Marathi actor has been arrested in Thane for allegedly posting objectionable posts on the Facebook page of Maharashtra Urban Development Minister Eknath Shinde, officials said on Tuesday.

The accused, identified as Mayuresh Kotkar, who has acted in some Marathi serials and films, was nabbed following a complaint lodged by Shiv Sena corporator Yogesh Jankar.

Jankar, in his complaint last Friday, said that Kotkar posted allegedly defamatory and inciteful content on the Facebook page of the minister which could have triggered violence between communities.

Following the plea, the Shreenagar police station investigated the matter and nabbed Kotkar. He was produced before a Thane court which sent him to judicial custody.

The ruling Maha Vikas Aghadi has been criticised over Kotkar’s arrest by several prominent personalities on social media.

The posts pertained to the proposal for the naming of the upcoming Navi Mumbai International Airport after the Shiv Sena founder-patriarch, Balasaheb Thackeray, who passed away in 2012.

Local villagers, comprising the Agri community, are strongly opposed to the proposal and have demanded that the airport should be named after a prominent local leader, Peasants & Workers Party (PWP) senior functionary and parliamentarian, Dinkar B. Patil, who had passed away in 2012.

Last week, the villagers protested by forming a 12-km-long human chain and have now threatened to lay a siege of the Konkan Bhavan on June 24 if their demand is not conceded.

Kotkar had joined the Agri protests and had also made several posts on social media networks, but after the Sena complaint, police deleted some of the objectionable content.

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Maharashtra

Ripples in Maharashtra as poll strategist Prashant Kishor meets Sharad Pawar

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Maharashtra politics saw a flutter on Friday as much sought-after polls mastermind Prashant Kishor called on Nationalist Congress Party President Sharad Pawar and the duo broke bread over lunch here.

After the luncheon, both Pawar and Prashant Kishor, oft referred to as ‘PK’ in political circles, kept mum on their meeting, further fuelling speculation.

However, senior NCP leader and Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar brushed aside all gossip, noting that Kishor has already made it clear he will not be designing poll strategies for political parties in future.

Similarly, Shiv Sena Chief Spokesperson and MP Sanjay Raut said many political leaders are in contact with Kishor while other NCP and Congress leaders feigned ignorance over the discussion menu or the outcome.

This morning, Kishor called on Pawar at the latter’s Mumbai residence around 11 a.m. and the duo was closeted for nearly 3 hours before the NCP chief saw off his high-profile visitor.

The meeting triggered guesswork whether this could signal a preparation for the 2024 Lok Sabha and Maharashtra Assembly elections amid calls for putting up a united front of all Opposition parties to tackle the Bharatiya Janata Party challenge.

This was Kishor’s first meeting with a prominent Maharashtra leader after his poll strategies succeeded in handsome victories in West Bengal and Tamil Nadu for the Trinamool Congress and the DMK respectively, particularly since the NCP and Sena had thrown their weight behind Mamata Banerjee.

Kishor had met the Shiv Sena President Uddhav Thackeray here shortly before he became the Chief Minister and enjoys close rapport with several leaders across parties in the state.

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Maharashtra

Now, Maharashtra to give 50-year-old urban trees ‘heritage’ tag

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In a novel green initiative to conserve nature, the Maharashtra government has decided to accord ‘heritage’ tags to all trees which are 50-years old and more in urban centres, officials said here on Friday.

The state cabinet presided over by Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray on Thursday approved a proposal to amend the Maharashtra (Urban Areas) Protection and Preservation of Trees Act, 1975, and incorporate the concept of ‘heritage trees’.

The Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government has also decided to form a ‘Maharashtra Tree Authority’ which will be empowered to take all decisions regarding protection of trees.

“In order to maintain and foster the green cover in the state’s urban centres, we have passed the amendment that will safeguard the environment in all cities and provide a robust mechanism to protect heritage trees,” said Tourism and Environment Minister Aditya Thackeray.

He expressed gratitude to the Chief Minister, Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar and Revenue Minister Balasaheb Thorat for consistently giving weightage to sustainable development by amending existing laws to address the worldwide climate emergency or global warming.

“Any tree with an estimated age of 50 years or above, shall be classified as a ‘heritage tree’. They may belong to specific species, which would be notified periodically,” an official said.

The move comes barely 18 months after Mumbai witnessed a staggering 2,141 big and small trees being chopped off in less than 40 hours – or roughly one tree/per minute – by the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Ltd. (MMRCL) inside the Aarey Colony, in October 2019.

The Thackeray father-son duo, both nature lovers, was instrumental in drafting the proposed changes in the law to ensure safety of all old trees in urban landscapes.

The Environment and Climate Change Department along with the Forest Department will shortly prepare formal guidelines to determine the age of a tree.

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